Rotator cuff tears are the leading cause of shoulder pain and shoulder-related disability.


Rotator Cuff Tears


The rotator cuff muscles are made up of four muscles that sit around the shoulder and shoulder blade to help with movement and stability. They consist of the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor muscles.

What is a Rotator Cuff Tear

Tears in the Rotator Cuff are the leading cause of shoulder pain and shoulder-related disability. A muscle tear occurs when the fibres of a muscle or the muscle tendon cannot meet the demands placed upon them which leads to those fibres tearing. Rotator cuff muscle tears can either be partial or complete. As the name suggests, a complete (or full thickness) tear is when all the fibres are torn, and a partial tear is when only some fibres have been torn.


What Causes a Rotator Cuff Tear 

An RC tear can be traumatic or non-traumatic. Rotator cuff injuries can occur because of a traumatic injury such as falling on an outstretched arm or in a sporting scenario. They can also occur over time due to wear and tear or degenerative changes to the rotator tendons.



Generally, the main symptoms of a RC tear are pain with movement, restricted shoulder movements, and difficulty sleeping on that shoulder at night due to pain.


Prognosis of a Rotator Cuff Tear

Recovery time depends on the degree of the tear as well as whether you rehab it conservatively or surgically. With conservative management you can generally see a reduction in symptoms in 6-8 weeks and after surgery this generally increases to 8-12 weeks.


Rehabilitation and Prevention

The rehabilitation process depends on the severity of the tear and whether you require surgery or can manage it conservatively. In younger athletes, a full thickness tear will require surgery to help heal the muscle and tendon. In the older population, full thickness tears can sometimes be guided by the client’s symptoms and level of function. Partial tears can also be managed conservatively.

There are three main goals for conservative treatment:

  1. Reduce pain and improve range of movement
  2. Strengthen the surrounding muscles
  3. Regain proprioception and neuromuscular control of the rotator cuff muscles
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Emma Draffin
Symmetry Physiotherapy